Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Versus Interpersonal Psychotherapy

In the past few weeks, different approaches were discussed and explored for possible treatment plans for a client seeking help from a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Existential-Humanistic therapy is the approach that is discussed and will be compared to my selection of interpersonal therapy in the following discussion.

Interpersonal Therapy

As a future psychiatric nurse practitioner, interpersonal therapy (IPT) is the most appealing due to the time limitations I will have as a clinician and how it is structured. IPT involves the therapist identifying a target diagnosis and giving the client a “sick role” in which the client understands this is temporary and recognizes the social environment is what is keeping the client from fully functioning (Markowitz, & Weissman, 2004). Identifying the target diagnosis can be a challenge.

Jennifer is a 25-year-old registered nurse that currently has taken an RN role on the COVID-19 units. Going into the 4th week of being on a unit that is not her original floor she is struggling with loneliness and has felt unmotivated and isolated. She understands that this role will only be until the end of the year, but the feelings of isolation are started to become overwhelming, and is feeling less fulfilled with her job since this a virus that there is no cure yet to be found. IPT would be ideal for her since her symptoms are coming from her temporary role, and she needs a plan of action for what she can do in the meantime with her commitment to the COVID-19 floor until the year is over. This approach is focused on her real life, not internal or that from the past.

Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy:

Existential therapy, which Victor Frankl helped shaped into meaning therapy, embraces the idea that people have the freedom to choose their attitude in their given circumstances and it helps to reveal its meaning (Wheeler, 2013). IPT and existential therapy both do not focus on the past, they focus on the present , and while existential goes one step further and also includes the future.

Mark is a 36-year-old newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patient. Mark is also a husband of 5 years and is a father to a 2-year-old son and a 6-month-old daughter. One study reveals that both meaning and existential psychotherapeutic interventions would benefit the cancer patient so they could have a dual focus and also trust their intuition (Vos, 2015). This approach does have the challenge of the unforeseeable treatment time but is beneficial because the client is able to seek internal and external resources.


Markowitz, J. C., & Weissman, M. M. (2004). Interpersonal psychotherapy: principles and applications. World Psychiatry : Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 3(3), 136–139.

Vos, J. (2015). Meaning and existential givens in the lives of cancer patients: A philosophical perspective on psycho-oncology. Palliative & Supportive Care, 13(4), 885-900. doi:

Wheeler, K. (Ed.). (2014). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: A how-to guide for evidence-based practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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